Practice makes perfect

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Salvi Manish talks to Devendra Desai, director & partner of Desai, Popat & Associates about how he migrated to Australia and his service to the community.

Devendra Desai, director & partner of Desai, Popat & Associates Pty Ltd, commenced his own accounting practices company in 1991 with the name ‘Desai & Associates Pty Ltd’ at Monbulk in Victoria. Qualified as a charted accountant in South Africa, Desai began his own practice in 1975 in Durban, South Africa, before migrating to Australia in 1987. Having gained an Australian qualification and experience in taxation and company law, Devendra established his business and shifted to Ferntree Gully in May 1998. With over 30 years of experience in public practice, Devendra along with his partner Naren Popat who joined him in 2006, formed Desai, Popat & Associates Pty Ltd.

Having held many positions both in his profession and community, Desai is very active in community service. He is the secretary and treasurer of Dandenong Ranges Community Finance Ltd, one of the largest community bank operations of Bendigo Bank and a member and President of the Gujarati Association of Victoria Inc.

In this interview with Indus Age, Devendra Desai tells us why he came to Australia as well as offers tips on saving money.

Having been well settled in South Africa, what made you shift to Australia?

Being a founder partner in a very successful practice in South Africa, the decision to migrate to a new country and start all over again was a very difficult decision. However, because of the political instability in South Africa, and to provide a better future for my children, my wife and I took the hard decision to migrate.

What was your experience with the field after reaching Australia?

The tax and company laws in the two countries are not all that different.  So when I studied in Australia, adjusting to those changes was not difficult at all. The benefits the public receive in the two countries are poles apart. I learnt that the benefits provided in Australia assisted the underprivileged a great deal. It was not the same in South Africa.

Where is Desai Popat Associates based in Australia?

I started my practice in 1991 in Monbulk as a sole practitioner. It was a very small practice in the Dandenong Mountains region. Over the years, the practice grew and in 1997 I moved the practice to Ferntree Gully. In 1998 I took on a partner. She got married in 2003 and decided to move to Queensland. In 2006, Naren Popat joined the practice as a partner.

Who helped you along the way when you reached Australia in 1987?

I did most of what was required on my own but must thank my employers for all the training I received in the profession and all my friends for providing the social network and assistance.

What are the services your company provides?

Our practice is more orientated towards businesses rather than individual tax returns. Over the years we have found that business clients require a more proactive accountant looking at the direction of the business in the future than telling them about the past. We have established clients that we talk to and meet on a regular basis to discuss strategies for the future besides attending to their normal financial and taxation requirements. With the introduction to GST, we, together with a client in the business software, developed an easy to use GST software for very small business people so that they can do their BAS returns themselves or with very little assistance thus saving them huge costs on a regular basis.

Do you provide financial planning services like debt consolidation, investment advice etc, which is different from the jobs of other BAS fillers and accountants?

We do not provide financial planning advice as we are not licensed financial planners. However, we do refer our clients to specialists in the various areas when they require assistance in those areas. We believe that our profession is being accountants and therefore should practice what we know best.

As an experienced person, do you provide any apprenticeship or training to young accountants?

We employ young people in our practice. Over the years, we have employed people with no experience and have trained them in all aspects of accounting and taxation. We hold staff training for all our employees once a month and also pay for some of them to go to other seminars that would benefit them.

As you own a company, do you provide any service to the community?

I am on the Board of Directors of one of the largest Bendigo Bank Community Banks. I am also the treasurer and the secretary of that organisation. My position there is voluntary and as you may be aware, the community bank structure is set up to help the community by way of grants and sponsorships.

I am an active member of the Gujarati Association of Victoria Inc. and have served on the Management Committee and on various sub-committees in the Association in the pasts. I am currently the president of the Gujarati Association of Victoria Inc. The Gujarati Association helps provide the social network and assistance to the Gujarati community in Victoria. I am a fellow of the Institute of Public Accountants and also a Divisional Councilor of the organisation. Through this we communicate with other members of the organisation and assist them regarding issues they have either with the organization or with other matters in relation to the profession.

Can you give us a little advice on saving money?

The best way to save money is not to waste it. Invest in areas that you are comfortable with rather than what others advise, if you are not comfortable with those investments. Paying tax gives you all the facilities and infrastructure provided by the government but you should pay the minimum that is required by law.